Rambling Soldier (I), The
DESCRIPTION: Soldier (sailor) describes the joys of rambling the countryside (of England): "I once was a seaman stout and bold, Ofttimes I plowed the ocean... For honor and promotion." In some versions he brags that he has a license to ramble, granted by the king.
EARLIEST DATE: before 1839 (broadside, Bodleian Johnson Ballads 256); c. 1817 (Reeves-Circle broadside transcription)
KEYWORDS: rambling nonballad sailor soldier injury
FOUND IN: US(SE) Britain(England(Lond,South),Scotland(Aber)) Australia
REFERENCES (14 citations):
BrownIII 367, "The Jolly Soldier" (1 fragment plus mention of 1 more)
BrownSchinhanV 367, "The Jolly Soldier" (1 tune plus a text excerpt)
Morris, #235, "Billy, the Rambling Soldier" (1 text)
Sharp-100E 43, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Butterworth/Dawney, p. 36, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Wiltshire-WSRO Mi 684, "Rambling Sailor" (1 text)
Reeves-Circle 109, "The Rambling Sailor" (2 texts)
VaughanWilliams/Palmer, #110, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
RoudBishop #16, "Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
Meredith/Anderson, pp. 174-175, "The Rambling Sailor" (1 text, 1 tune)
GreigDuncan7 1477, "The Rovin' Sailor" (3 texts, 2 tunes)
Ord, p. 326, "Dicky Johnston, or, The Roving Sailor" (1 short text)
DallasCruel, pp. 50-51, "The Rambling Soldier" (1 text, 1 tune)
DT, RAMBSAIL* (RMBSAIL2*)
Chris Willett, "The Rambling Sailor" (on Voice12)
Bodleian, Johnson Ballads 256, "The Rambling Sailor" ("I am a sailor stout and bold, long time I have ploughed the ocean"), J. Catnach (London), 1813-1838; also Firth c.12(275), Johnson Ballads 1230, Harding B 11(1670), Firth b.25(378), Harding B 11(3226), Harding B 11(4288), Harding B 15(250b), Johnson Ballads 966, Johnson Ballads 559, Harding B 20(142), Firth b.34(302), "[The] Rambling Sailor"; Harding B 11(3228), "The Rambling Soldier" ("I am a soldier blithe and gay"), W. and T. Fordyce (Newcastle), 1832-1842; Firth b.26(329), Harding B 11(835), Harding B 16(221a), Harding B 11(3227), Harding B 15(251a), Harding B 15(251b), Harding B 15(252a), Harding B 20(143), Harding B 17(251a), "Rambling Soldier"
cf. "The Rambling Comber"
NOTES: Sharp notes that on the older broadsides, the rambler was a soldier; in the newer ones, he is a sailor. - PJS
Sharp may be right about which version is the older. The Bodleian broadsides give no clear-cut answer; however, Harding B 16(221a), "Rambling Soldier" lists the tune as "Rambling Sailor"; it also lists the author as John Morgan. - BS
In Brown's version (which is only two stanzas), it appears that he is a sailor who later enlists in the American Revolutionary army. This may be a rewrite, but the text it too short to be sure.
Ord's text says that the sailor has been granted a license to beg *because he has lost a limb.* Ordinarily I would consider this a significant enough distinction to split the songs, but the rest is the same; the lost limb appears (or fails to appear, perhaps) in only a single line. Perhaps a mixture with something like "The Forfar Soldier," or even a case of an injured veteran adopting the piece to his own case? - RBW
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